Students in fire fighter training programs learn to perform such tasks as attaching hydrants to high-pressure hose lines and using extension ladders. They also receive classroom instruction in identifying and handling hazardous materials, such as flammables and explosives. Training programs may require students to undergo physical conditioning as well. Upon completing a fire fighter I or fire fighter II training program, students are prepared to take their state fire fighter certification examinations.
To advance to fire fighter II programs, students usually complete fire fighter I certificate programs. However, some schools may accept applicants provided they've completed an introductory fire science course or are affiliated with a fire department. Prerequisites to beginning either training program include a high school diploma or its equivalent and a series of self-study prerequisite courses on the National Incident Management System.
Fire Fighter Certificate
Students in fire fighter certificate programs are given both hands-on and classroom instruction. In addition to coursework, they may learn to operate emergency vehicles or participate in live fire training. Common course topics can include:
- Fire systems
- Fire technology
- Hazardous materials
- Fire apparatus management
- Fire prevention
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for fire fighters were projected to increase 5% from 2014-2024. However, competition for these positions is expected to remain strong. The mean annual wage for fire fighters was $49,330 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Certification and Continuing Education Information
According to the BLS, a high school diploma is often sufficient for entry into the fire fighting profession, provided applicants can pass written and practical exams. However, in some states, these exams are part of a mandatory certification process for basic or entry-level positions. In addition to earning passing exam scores, aspiring fire fighters typically need to complete state-approved fire fighter I and fire fighter II training programs. Other states may offer voluntary certification.
Fire fighter certificate program graduates looking for continuing education options might want to consider earning an associate degree in fire science or a related field. In some cases, credits earned in a certificate program may be applied toward one of these 2-year degrees. According to the BLS, earning this degree may improve an applicant's employment prospects.
There are two levels of fire fighter training that provide the necessary skills and know-how to effectively and safely perform the job. While these training programs are among the most common way to begin a firefighter career, two-year degree programs are available as well.